Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, May 25, 64 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp in Richmond.
—At Redskins Park: OTA practice open to media 11:30; players available after practice; Jay Gruden news conference approx. 1:30.
—The Redskins last played a game 136 days ago. It will be 110 days until they host the Steelers in their 2016 season opener.
—Days until: Redskins training camp starts 64; Preseason opener @ Falcons 78; Final roster cut 101
Pass more on first down?
There was plenty of debate over the course of the season that the Redskins should “pound the rock” more in first down. But the numbers indicate that they may have run on first down more than they should have.
Kirk Cousins (the only player to attempt a first-down pass in 2015) dropped back to pass 207 times on first down. He completed 145 passes for 1770 yards and he was sacked nine times for 75 yards in losses. On average the Redskins gained 8.2 yards per pass on first down.
They ran the ball on first more often than they threw, 238 times (53.5% of first-downs snaps). Those runs gained 781 yards, or 3.3 per play. You don’t have to be a math wizard to figure out that they gained well over twice as many yards by passing on first down than they did by running.
In case you’re wondering about turnover factor, Cousins threw two interceptions on first down and there were no fumbles in first-down running plays. Perhaps a valid reason for running on first but you'd have a hard time convincing me that turning it over on less than on percent of the passes should be much of a deterrent considering the yardage differential on first down.
Those numbers show us all game situations including some when the other team might be in a prevent defense and giving the Redskins the 10-yard passes while playing to prevent the deeper balls. So let’s narrow it down a bit and try to find “normal” situations.
Let’s look at how effective the plays are when you the game is competitive. When the game was within 10 points either way in 2015, the Redskins ran considerably more on first down, 166 times (56.8%), than they passed, 126 times (43.2%). But they averaged 3.3 yards per rushing play and 9.3 per passing play. Why not flip flop the play selection and pass more like 60 percent of the time? Looking at the numbers, you can legitimately ask why they should run on first down at all.
Of course, these numbers don’t tell the whole story. A team has to have a certain degree of unpredictability so the defense can’t stack up to stop the play. But if I’m Jay Gruden I am spending some time figuring out the minimum number of times I can run the ball on first down and still have the opposing defense honor it.
In case you missed it
- Guard Spencer Long has been getting reps at center
- Which Redskins are on the bubble?
- Has the Redskins defense improved enough to contend?
- OTAs to-do list: Running backs
- How much work remains at safety?